Category: Gmail | Apr 6, 2011
Posted by Sara Goetz, Consumer Experience Specialist
Ever since I joined the Gmail team, my friends have been eager to tell me, “I love Gmail! Except for this one thing…” And every day, Gmail users share their “one thing” that would make Gmail better for them through our suggestions page. While we enjoy creating new solutions to old problems with features like Priority Inbox, those little annoyances and missing pieces are important, too. Recently, we’ve rolled out several small tweaks to Gmail to show it a little extra love.
Here’s a rundown:
- Auto-save contacts setting: Most people like that Gmail automatically saves every email address you send messages to; it can help recover forgotten addresses of former teachers, bosses, and people you contacted once but never thought you’d need to contact again. For some people, though, this feature can cause too much contacts clutter. Today, we’re rolling out a new setting to let you turn off the auto-save option. You’ll see it on the General tab of Gmail Settings.
- Better warnings for typos in email addresses: We all make typos, even when addressing email. In the old days, when you accidentally left out the “.” in your “.com”, Gmail would tell you there was an error but not point it out. Now, it’ll let you know which address has the problem — much easier when sorting through a long “To:” list.
- Fewer annoying error pop-ups: Gmail’s filters are really useful for organizing your messages automatically, but sometimes those filters can have unintended consequences, like sending mail you’d like to keep to the trash. When you replied to a message in the Trash, Gmail would show an error message you’d have to click through to continue working. Now, you’ll still see the error, but it’s no longer a pop up and it gives you an easy way to move the conversation out of Trash right from there.
- Easier transitions between certain actions: You can create filters quickly from the “Filter messages like this” option that shows up on some messages. Now, after you’ve saved your filter, Gmail will send you right back to the message you were reading so you can go right back to what you were doing before.
- Keyboard shortcut guide for everyone: Keyboard shortcuts can be a huge productivity boosters. If you’ve never tried them, try hitting Shift+? — that’s one keyboard shortcut that’s now automatically turned on and gives you a peek into the rest of them and a quick link to enable from there.
- Refresh button: For a long time, people have pointed out the inconsistency of having “Refresh” as a link in the menu bar, next to all of the buttons. We changed it to a button to match.
If any of these small fixes were your “one thing,” we hope you’ve noticed the changes as they rolled out. When you find the next little tweak that would make you love Gmail even more, let us know.
Category: Gmail | Apr 1, 2011
Posted by Paul McDonald, Product Manager
In 1874 the QWERTY keyboard was invented. In 1963, the world was introduced to the mouse. Some 50 years later, we’ve seen the advent of microprocessors, high resolution webcams, and spatial tracking technology. But all the while we’ve continued to use outdated technology to interact with devices. Why?
This is a question that we’ve been thinking about a lot at Google, and we’re excited to introduce our first attempts at next generation human computer interaction: Gmail Motion. Gmail Motion allows you to control Gmail — composing and replying to messages — using your body.
To use Gmail Motion, you’ll need a computer with a built-in webcam. Once you enable Gmail Motion from the Settings page, Gmail will enable your webcam when you sign in and automatically recognize any one of the detected movements via a spatial tracking algorithm. We designed the movements to be easy and intuitive to perform and consulted with top experts in kinestetics and body movement in devising them.
We’ve been testing Gmail Motion with Googlers over the last few months and have been really excited about the feedback we’ve been hearing. We’ve also done some internal tests to measure productivity improvements and found an average 14% increase in email composition speed and 12% reduction in average time in inbox. With Gmail Motion, Googlers were able to get more done and get in and out of their inboxes more quickly.
To use Gmail Motion, you’ll need the latest version of Google Chrome or Firefox 3.5+ and a built-in webcam. If it’s not already enabled on your account, sit tight — we’ll be making it available to everyone over the next day or so.
For more information, visit gmail.com/motion.
Category: Gmail | Mar 29, 2011
Posted by Kathleen Chen, Consumer Operations
I’m a big theater buff, and I always wonder about all the unseen people hard at work backstage, grabbing props, making sure the microphones work, and moving set pieces. Whether you’re into theater or not, we figured you might be interested in hearing about what goes on “behind the scenes” of Gmail. With this in mind, we’re excited to bring you a new series over the coming months called “Faces of Gmail,” which will spotlight the engineers, designers, and other folks who help make Gmail what it is. So here’s our first interviewee: Manu Cornet, the Parisian engineer behind many of your favorite Gmail themes.
What do you do on the Gmail team and what did you do before joining Google?
I’ve worked on the Gmail frontend team for most of my four years at Google. I mostly work on things I can’t really talk about just yet :-). But on the side I do many small user interface-related things such as labs (e.g. I worked on Nested Labels, Message Sneak Peek, and the Unread Message Icon), themes, and various interface improvements. Before Google, I got a master’s in physics (plus some biology) and one in computer science. Then I started a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, but after a year I felt I needed to work on things that would be useful to more people in a shorter time range.
How did themes get started and how did you help develop them?
The idea of making Gmail theme-able had been around for nearly as long as Gmail existed. When I joined the Gmail team, they asked me if I wanted to be part of the first themes team. I said “yes” immediately! Working at Google is already a thrill, but talk about a dream job within a dream job! Making themes may sound easy, but it proved pretty challenging: Gmail has a huge amount of code, this was long before recent evolutions like CSS3, and we obviously had to support all major browsers. Especially for the crazy themes that involved custom borders, drop shadows, and customizations everywhere, like Ninjas, Desk, Shiny, etc. To this day I don’t believe any email client (web-based or not) provides that level of styling and customization. Anyway, people obviously like themes, so I’ve continued to work on more like Marker, High Score, and the ability to choose your own colors. On my personal Gmail account I use Zoozimps — it’s my baby, I drew all these big-nosed characters (they’re kind of self-caricatures).
What are the three Gmail features you wouldn’t be able to live without?
I’m an “inbox zero” kind of guy, so I would say archive (to move things out of my inbox), filters (everything that isn’t addressed to me directly or cc’d to me doesn’t make it to my inbox, but I do take a glance at all unread emails once every day), and conversation view (gathering all messages in a conversation in one place). With so many emails a day I’d go crazy without those.
What do you do when you’re not working on Gmail?
I like to write (I published a few books in France), draw (illustrations and comic strips), and play music (mostly jazz — I published an album back in 2004 but I don’t have as much time as I’d like for that these days).
What would your last meal be?
I think it would be a meal with only desserts: crème brûlée, molten chocolate cake, red fruit tiramisu, floating island, ice cream, etc. Alright I’m hungry now…
Photos by Cody Bratt, Google Talk team
Category: Gmail | Mar 21, 2011
Posted by Jason Toff, Product Marketing Manager
Switching email accounts can be painful. The idea of losing years of accumulated contacts and messages can sound daunting, to say the least. Luckily, switching to Gmail doesn’t mean you have to start totally fresh.
Back in 2009 we announced tools that let you import mail and contacts from other providers, such as AOL or Hotmail. Today we’re announcing the addition of fourteen more international domains to our list of supported email providers:
We’ve also created a site, gmail.com/switch, with basic information and how and why you might want to switch to Gmail. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re already a Gmail user, but perhaps this link will be handy for friends and family.
We’re always looking for ways to make Gmail more useful — both for existing users and new ones — so, as always, we’d love to hear what you think!
Category: Gmail | Mar 16, 2011
Posted by Kenneth Kwan, Software Engineer
Using Gmail in Safari on your iPhone gives you access to fast search, conversation view, stars, labels, and more. But it’s sometimes frustrating not knowing whether your email has been sent or whether your phone has a functioning internet connection at all. To address this, we recently introduced the “connection bar.” The connection bar appears at the bottom of the screen when needed to give you the info you want— and then gets out of the way.
The connection bar appears when the app launches and is checking for new mail:
It also appears when your phone is offline, back online and sending, and then again when it finishes sending all messages:
You can see this improvement by visiting gmail.com from your iPhone or iPod Touch’s browser (iOS4 only). Don’t see the new changes yet? Try clearing your cache and refreshing the page. And if you like using Gmail in mobile Safari, get to it faster by tapping the “+” at the bottom of the screen and then “Add to Home Screen.”
Category: Gmail | Mar 10, 2011
Posted by Robin Schriebman, Software Engineer
With the ability to call phones built right into Gmail, you no longer have to get out your phone and retype a number anytime someone sends you one in an email or chat message. Starting today, you’ll see that phone numbers appear as links, like this:
Just click the number, and Gmail’s dialpad will pop up, already populated with the number you’re trying to call.
Click “Call” and voilà! Of course, if you don’t already have the voice and video plugin installed, you’ll be prompted to do that first.
You’ll also see a little green phone icon next to numbers in your contacts which you can use to do the same thing.
Category: Gmail | Mar 9, 2011
Posted by Stanley Chen, Software Engineer
People get a lot of email these days. On top of personal messages, there are group mailing lists, social network notifications, credit card statements, newsletters you might have signed up for, and promotional email from a shopping site you used once months ago. Gmail’s filters and labels were invented to help manage the deluge, but while I have about 100 filters that triage and label my incoming mail, most of my friends and family have all their messages in a giant unfiltered inbox.
Last year, we launched Priority Inbox to automatically sort incoming email and help you focus on the messages that matter most. Today, we’re launching a complementary feature in Gmail Labs called Smart Labels, which helps you classify and organize your email. Once you turn it on from the Labs tab in Settings, Smart Labels automatically categorizes incoming Bulk, Notification and Forum messages, and labels them as such. “Bulk” mail includes any kind of mass mailing (such as newsletters and promotional email) and gets filtered out of your inbox by default (where you can easily read it later), “Notifications” are messages sent to you directly (like account statements and receipts), and email from group mailing lists gets labeled as “Forums.”
If you already use filters and labels to organize your mail, you may find that you can replace your existing filters with Smart Labels. If you’re picky like me and still want to hold on to your current organization system, Smart Labels play nice with other labels and filters too. On the Filters tab under Settings, you’ll find that these filters can be edited just like any others. From there, you can also edit your existing filters to avoid having them Smart Labeled or change whether mail in a Smart Label skips your inbox (which you can also do by just clicking on the label, then selecting or unselecting the checkbox in the top right corner).
Labs in Gmail are a great testing ground for experimental features, and we hope Smart Labels help you more effortlessly get through your inbox. If you notice a message that was automatically labeled incorrectly and want to help us troubleshoot, you can report miscategorizations from the drop down menu on each message (in doing so, you’ll donate the full message to our engineers so that we can improve the feature). Give it a try and send us feedback on how we can make it work better for you!
Category: Gmail | Feb 28, 2011
Posted by Ben Treynor, VP Engineering and Site Reliability Czar (24×7)
Imagine the sinking feeling of logging in to your Gmail account and finding it empty. That’s what happened to 0.02% of Gmail users yesterday, and we’re very sorry. The good news is that email was never lost and we’ve restored access for many of those affected. Though it may take longer than we originally expected, we’re making good progress and things should be back to normal for everyone soon.
I know what some of you are thinking: how could this happen if we have multiple copies of your data, in multiple data centers? Well, in some rare instances software bugs can affect several copies of the data. That’s what happened here. Some copies of mail were deleted, and we’ve been hard at work over the last 30 hours getting it back for the people affected by this issue.
To protect your information from these unusual bugs, we also back it up to tape. Since the tapes are offline, they’re protected from such software bugs. But restoring data from them also takes longer than transferring your requests to another data center, which is why it’s taken us hours to get the email back instead of milliseconds.
So what caused this problem? We released a storage software update that introduced the unexpected bug, which caused 0.02% of Gmail users to temporarily lose access to their email. When we discovered the problem, we immediately stopped the deployment of the new software and reverted to the old version.
As always, we’ll post a detailed incident report outlining what happened to the Apps Status Dashboard, as well as the corrective actions we’re taking to help prevent it from occurring again. If you were affected by this issue, it’s important to note that email sent to you between 6:00 PM PST on February 27 and 2:00 PM PST on February 28 was likely not delivered to your mailbox, and the senders would have received a notification that their messages weren’t delivered.
Thanks for bearing with us as we fix this, and sorry again for the scare.
Update (3/1 12:20 PM PST): Data for the remaining 0.012% of affected users has been successfully restored from tapes and is now being processed. We plan to begin moving data into mailboxes in 2 hours, and in the hours that follow users will regain access to their data. Accounts with more mail will take more time. Thanks for bearing with us.
Category: Gmail | Feb 25, 2011
Posted by Stanley Chen, Software Engineer
Many Gmail power users have elaborate label systems to help organize their mail — some help file and retrieve mail, others help manage their attention.
We created the “Hide read labels” and “Hide Labels from Subjects” labs to help people manage their ever-growing lists of labels. Given the popularity and usefulness of these labs, we’ve decided to graduate them into fully-fledged features. We’ve also made a few improvements to how they work. First, instead of simply hiding all labels from subject lines, you can now choose which labels to show or hide. We also spiffed up and organized the Labels tab in Settings as well as the dropdown menus for each label in the label list.
If you had enabled either Labs feature, your settings should automatically be carried over. If there was a glitch in the matrix, or if you want to change the visibility for a bunch of labels quickly, you can adjust them en masse by going to the Labels tab in Settings.
Category: Gmail | Feb 18, 2011
Posted by: Anil Sabharwal, Product Manager
Cross posted from the Google Docs blog
The Google Docs Viewer is used by millions of people every day to quickly view PDFs, Microsoft Word documents and PowerPoint presentations online. Not only is viewing files in your browser far more secure than downloading and opening them locally, but it also saves time and doesn’t clutter up your hard-drive with unwanted files.
Today we’re excited to launch support for 12 new file types:
- Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
- Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 / 2010 (.PPTX)
- Apple Pages (.PAGES)
- Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
- Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
- Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
- Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
- PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
- TrueType (.TTF)
- XML Paper Specification (.XPS)
Not only does this round out support for the major Microsoft Office file types (we now support DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS and XLSX), but it also adds quick viewing capabilities for many of the most popular and highly-requested document and image types.
In Gmail, these types of attachments will now show a “View” link, and clicking on this link will bring up the Google Docs Viewer.
You can also upload and share these files in Google Docs, so that anyone can view the content using their browser.
And as always, the Google Docs Viewer is available for use on any website, with both a full Chrome and embedded option. More information can be found here.